Circa 1910 photo of Ella May Clemmons (1861-1935)
I recently purchased an divided-back RPPC (Real Photo Postcard) (not postally used) depicting a Chinese man and a white woman standing inside their San Francisco curio store.It is stamped on the back:
"Mr. and Mrs. Wong Sun Yue Clemens
RELICS DUG FROM THE RUINS
535 GRANT AVENUE
Handwritten on the front is:
"Mr & Mrs Wong Sun Yue Clemens,
Mrs Howard Gould's Sister."
A biography of the subject was published in 1941 under the title "The 'Christ Angel': Ella May Clemmons," Chapter X, pp. 262-279, in a book "They were San Franciscans," by Miriam Allen De Ford."Ella is included in several Public Member Trees posted on ancestry.com.I found her listed in the 1870 Census data for Montezuma Township, Milton Post Office, Pike Co., IL; the 1880 Census data for Oakland (resided at 1155 Jackson Street), Alameda Co., CA; and the 1910 Census data for San Francisco (resided at 897 Grant Avenue), San Francisco Co., CA.
Ella May Clemmons, born about 1861 in Pike Co., IL, died 19 Sep 1935 in Alameda, Alameda Co., CA, was the daughter of Selden Perry Clemmons (1838-1908) and Martha Kilpatrick (1849-?).Her mother later married Judge Dayan, born about 1848 in NY.
Ella was married several times.According to one account, she was first married at age 16 to Charles W. Watts, born about 1855 in IL.In about 1885, she married Charles Bernard Overacker (1854-1932), but they separated in 1898 and he sued for divorce in 1900 on grounds of desertion.In a 1906 San Francisco earthquake refugee camp Ella met Wong Sun Yue, born about 1856 in China (immigrated to America in 1894), and they about 1907.She later said she married him so that she could care for him and cure him of his opium habit.Together they operated a curio store specializing in the sale of artifacts recovered from the ashes of the 1906 earthquake and fire.She was active in San Francisco's Chinatown and in 1915 compiled a guidebook to that section of the city.She became an ardent disciple of Dr. Maria Montessori's method of child training and with help from her sister, Viola Katherine Gould, established a school in Peiping, China.After a falling out with her sister and the subsequent loss of her financial support, Ella returned to the U.S.She converted to the Catholic faith.After Viola died, Ella received a substantial inheritance.
Ella eventually fell under the influence of a drugless practitioner named Hjalmar Groneman, who prescribed unconventional treatments and had her committed to a sanatorium in Alameda, CA, where she died.In Feb 1936, Dr. Groneman was indicted by a grand jury on charges of manslaughter and criminal negligence, but in Dec 1936 the charges were dismissed after the principal withness disappeared.
Other similar advertising postcards of Ella and her Chinese-born partner are reproduced in "Relicts Dug From the Ruins," by Kathryn Ayres, in San Francisco Bay Area Post Card Club Newsletter, Vol. XXIII, No. 8, Aug-Sep 2008.
Contact me if you are interested in viewing or acquiring this photo.